Thursday 25 June 2015

The weather turns as we end our trip

Friday 12th and Saturday 13th June; Scout Tunnel to Droylsden Marina
A lovely bright sunny morning once more as we prepared to pull pins and head away from the countryside – I took a quick snap before I leapt on my bike to buzz down to the lock.

1 mooring below lock 11w

Above lock 9W there was a depth gauge and sign.  At first I wondered why, as the river is well below the canal at this point and they don’t share the channel on the Huddersfield  – but if you look carefully you can see that the colours are reversed from the order you see on river sections of canal. Unfortunately the sun was so bright my camera couldn’t cope and I don’t have the knowledge/software to correct it.

2 lack of water warning lock 9

This is a very short pound and the level is obviously prone to dropping.  The red band on the indicator at water level (above the lock) is concealed when the water is deep enough for passage rather than too deep for safety.  It was covered in mud, but we could see it was in the green and we had no problems.  It became increasingly hot and humid as we stopped at the Grove Road Bridge services and then descended the last of the rural locks.

4 last pretty lock 8W

Almost immediately we were passing under a pylon which was built straddling the canal  under which a new section of canal was constructed during restoration, the original line being under the substation to the right of the picture - thanks Geoff (nb Seyella) for the info.

5 pylon over canal below lock 8w
5b pylon

The sun was still bright enough to make photography awkward.  Industry was encroaching now on the approach to Stalybridge and we stopped on the visitor moorings between Tesco and its car park.  We were glad we didn’t come down here last night – the towpath is covered in goose poo and there is nowhere to take a dog.  I even had to climb through the railings to get into the car park and over the footbridge to the store – if there was a gap it must have been a long way back up the way we came.  The good thing about this spot, apart from convenience for shopping, is the excellent recycling facilities the other side of the car park.  Clean and tidy, room in the bins for everything and now room for my shoes in the bottom of the wardrobe again.
We didn’t stay long and were soon in Armentieres Square.  The canal goes through the middle of the square and Lock 6W was built during its restoration.  I think in poor weather or winter the square must be pretty bleak, with its roads, expanses of paving and the boarded-up Mill Pond pub.  People were strolling about in the sunshine but a lot seemed to have no interest in the boat at all, which we thought was quite unusual especially as it’s not a busy canal.  Not a bit like Banbury, for example!  We did have an audience, though they just watched from their benches.  On one side is this interesting sculpture. 

7 sculpture stalybridge

I could probably had got a better photo if I’d crossed over and gone towards the church but then the sun would have been in my eyes.  I had to look it up to find out what the sculpture represents – it’s a pair of lock gates, obvious when you know, and there is a better view on the link.  It is set up to be a sundial.
At the next lock we spied nb Yorkshire Rose, one of our tunnel companions.  They had spent a quiet night on the Armentieres Square moorings.  We followed them down the remaining locks before turning in at Portland Basin for fuel. 

On the way we passed under this bridge where the air was full of whirling birds. I think they were sand martins rather than house martins and appeared to be nesting in holes under the bridge parapet.

10 sand martins nest in holes under parapet

To get to the diesel point we had to turn onto the Peak Forest canal, then almost immediately into the narrow boatyard arm.  With little space and plastic boats moored either side of the arm I nipped up to the bow to ask a boater where the fuel pump was.  Oh here, he said, and pulled his little cruiser out of the way to leave just enough room for us to pull in.  We still had to stick our bow out past the narrowboat moored in front of us for the hose to reach.  There was nowhere to turn, so afterwards Dave had to reverse (perfectly, with only about a foot either side) between the two cruisers so we could be on our way.  I should have taken a photo but was rather too occupied in checking our distance from the Tupperware.

At Dukinfield Junction, where the Peak Forest canal meets the Ashton and Huddersfield Narrow, is the Ashton Canal Warehouse, built in 1834 and restored in 1998.  The Portland Basin Museum is housed in the warehouse and the Wooden Canal Boat Society has boats here.

11 ashton canal warehouse dukinfield junction

I didn’t have a chance to take pictures of the boats on the way in as we weren't sure where the entrance to the Peak Forest was.  A visit to the museum will have to wait until we come this way again.
We continued down the Ashton to the marina, noting how the wind was getting up while we were still half a mile away!  In the stiff breeze we needed two goes to get into our mooring but were all sorted before the drizzle started.  Jane, who lives aboard there, had kept an eye on our car for us, even moving it a couple of times when the space was needed for craning a boat.  Thanks Jane!  I have to say this is one of the friendliest places we have ever stayed.

It was a damp evening and we treated ourselves to a meal in the excellent Giovanni's a short walk away.
10 locks, 6 and a half miles.

On Saturday morning we loaded the car between showers – the weather is nothing like as bad as the forecast had threatened.  Apart from half an hour at tickover speed on the M6 we had a good journey home.

Stats for the trip, the South Pennine Ring:
197 locks (92 narrow, 105 broad; Tuel Tunnel lock is counted as 2).  73 miles 6 furlongs, 78.5 engine hours, 6 moveable bridges and 8 tunnels including the wonderful Standedge.

Year’s total so far:
229.5 miles, 303 locks (117 broad, 186 narrow), 11 moveable bridges, 14 tunnels, 167 engine hours.
The blog is at last up to date, so where shall we go next?  Back to Manchester probably, then maybe further along the Bridgewater and/or the Weaver.  We won’t go back up the Huddersfield, not this year anyway!

Wednesday 24 June 2015

A quieter day!

Thursday 11th June; Uppermill to Scout Tunnel/lock 11W
This morning Meg was bouncing around as usual and you wouldn’t have known anything had happened yesterday.  It was fortunate that the hook caught in her lip – it could have been her throat or further down.  Doesn’t bear thinking about.  After breakfast Dave took her off for a walk while I did a bit of shopping and called into the pet shop to thank the man for his help.  As I returned to the boat I could hear a rustling at the edge of the towpath and spotted two moles!  I dumped the shopping and grabbed my camera for a hasty photo - a tarmac towpath is not the best place for moles.1 young mole
They were clearly trying to get out of sight and I guess they must have fallen from the bank above the towpath wall, or just burrowed out between the gaps in the stones.  I have read that moles are solitary outside the breeding season and the young leave the maternal burrow at five weeks so these were probably just starting out by themselves. There was hardly any soil for them to burrow into so I picked this one up and put it back on the bank - pointing away from the drop - and it quickly disappeared.  The other had vanished so it must have found some soft ground and burrowed out of sight.
I walked up the towpath to meet Dave and Meg.  We went down to the steeping stones over the river by the park so she could get a drink.
1a crossing stepping stones 1b stepping stones with meg
Although I had to get the shears out to cut back the nettles so we could moor last night, this is a good spot if you can avoid the shelf below the waterline.  Here we are, the nettles behind us catching the sun, seen through bridge 77 -
2b uppermill mooring
and bridge 77 seen from the water-point mooring.2c view from stern
Last night’s forecast for Saturday, when we had been intending to arrive back at Droylsden marina, was dreadful so we brought everything forward by a day and set off mid-morning.  Dave dealt with the lock by the mooring while I crossed the busy main road to see where to get back on the boat.  The bottom gate on the off-side was operated by a windlass system as there was no room for a full length balance beam.
3 winding gate at lock 21w
It was another beautiful day, with stunning scenery.  The wooded hillsides rose steeply to Mossley, but although yesterday we could see from the taxi down into the valley where the canal runs, we couldn’t see anything of the town from the canal and had only brief glimpses of the road.
4 lovely scenery road to mossley up there
At about bridge 20W there was another sympathetic conversion of mill buildings.  A local told us that all the buildings were once in use for manufacturing, though now it looks like a group of cottages around the larger building in the middle.
5 redeveloped mill lock 20w maybe
There was a CRT notice we haven’t seen before on several lock beams – we suppose that the idea is to give the pounds a chance to refill from the bywashes.  It reminded us of the motorway injunction to ‘keep two chevrons apart’.
6 like the motorway
The thing that looks like a pepper-pot under the balance beam covers the breather hole from the ground paddle culvert.  Attractive, and also saves you from an accidental drenching as sometimes happens at the simple gratings you stand above to wind the paddle gear!
We had been warned that the moorings at Roaches were very shallow, but one boat was moored close in so we thought we’d try too and had no trouble at all.  If it hadn’t been for our change of plan we would have stayed put until Friday, but even so it was a nice change to have a relaxed lunch out in the country.  I took this photo from the path leading across the meadow to the river a couple of hundred yards away.
7 lunchtime at roaches
Below, Meg investigates the river Tame at Roaches. The pink flowers in the foreground are of Polygonum bistorta, or Sweet Dock, the leaves of which are used to make ‘dock pudding’, a local delicacy.  The World Dock Pudding Championships are held in Mytholmroyd, near Hebden Bridge on the Rochdale Canal.
8 river tame at roaches
If we ever come back this way, Roaches would be a place to stop – walks for the dog and a pub a few hundred yards away.
We didn’t fancy mooring in Stalybridge tonight, having been told by a boater at Uppermill he’d had youths rampaging over his roof last time he did.  We’d heard that the area south of Scout Tunnel was ok, and the depth of water was fine between locks 11 and 10W so we moored up.  At last there was time to start washing the the boat - there was still mud from the Rochdale towpaths to be dealt with!  Dave assessed the damage we sustained from our tunnel passage, yesterday having been rather too busy.  There were a couple of scratches down to the metal near the back of the cabin which had to be seen to, as well as some scuffing along the handrails.  And the black below the gunwales hadn’t been touched up for a while – not much point the route we’ve taken - so he was a busy lad.
It was a lovely warm evening; long cool drinks were in order and the side hatch was open till late.
11 locks, 3 and a half miles.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

It wasn’t Meg’s day …

Wednesday 10th June;  Marsden to Uppermill via the Standedge Tunnel

It’s a long post today, as a lot happened after the tunnel passage.

The CRT crews were here soon after 8 and having their cups of tea as they planned the morning and started measuring the boats to ensure they wouldn’t get stuck inside.  We’d removed the cratch cover already (there is a high risk of damage) and taken the painted can off the roof and that was all we needed to do.  The third boat to go had bikes, plant pots and roof boxes to cram elsewhere and used their waiting time to give their roof a good clean. Here we are, ready for the off.

2 three ready for the off

The trains had been going through since much earlier of course.

2a there goes the train

Terry, our chaperone for the trip, loaded up his safety kit and gave us our briefing.  The tunnel is over 3 miles long and there are stringent safety precautions.  The steerer must wear a high-vis waistcoat and a lifejacket in case they are knocked overboard, and anyone who doesn’t stay tucked up inside must wear a hard hat too.  Pets must be restrained inside, as the last thing they want is delay while you search for a dog overboard.  Meg gets under our feet at the best of times and is always shut in for tunnels, but this time I attached her to the Desmo table leg with her harness and lead, hoping she would curl up in her bed and go to sleep (she didn’t).  Terry hauled a full-size fire extinguisher on board and a crate with a first-aid kit and other items, and wore gas detectors about his person – carbon monoxide, methane and one other which I think was for oxides of nitrogen (NOx).  During our passage we would need to pause four times to call in and confirm we were ok.

We set off just after 9.  I’m not keen on tunnels but was determined to be outside and be positive about the experience.  Exciting or what! as the young folks say.  In we went through the first section which is beautifully lined with brick.  Now unfortunately our pictures are pretty poor.  My flash hasn’t worked for ages but Dave's camera also had a glitch so for good photos of the tunnel I suggest you visit Free Spirit and the-everards blogs.  This is one of my better ones ….

6 inside

As well as brick-lined sections, there are bare rock and sprayed concrete sections too.  The bare rock had some very pointy bits which Terry warned about in good time but it was not possible to avoid them all unfortunately!  The tunnel has some very narrow sections (you think the Harecastle is narrow? ha!) and is so low in places that you can barely see over your roof and have to look down the side to see where you are going, and even a shorty like me had to crouch.  This is a higher bit of rocky ceiling, though it looks strange because my camera technique can’t compensate for a moving boat.

10 rock

When the railway tunnels were built, a lot of the spoil was removed via the canal, and cross-adits were constructed for this purpose.  A disused railway tunnel (there are three, only one in use now) is used as an escape route should it be necessary, and the adits are where boats stop to check in.  By the first checkpoint one of Terry’s gas detectors had started shrieking at us so we had to stop the engine for the exhaust fumes to clear.  It didn’t take long with the fresh air at the adit, and was fine after that.  This is the other CRT chap, who comes along the escape tunnel to monitor progress and reports back to the outside via an intercom.

3 first checkpoint

We saw him again at the second checkpoint.  Terry kept up a fascinating commentary with information about the construction, geology and history of the tunnels.   He pointed out the remains of the shot holes where the men would have worked in pairs to bash out holes (by hand, using a hammer and spike) in which they packed gunpowder to break the rock.  This was pretty hazardous, as of course they only had candles for illumination.  The rocky bits are mostly Millstone Grit and sandstone, but some parts, which I think are of shale, are quite crumbly and had rock bolts inserted or had been sprayed with concrete to stabilise them.  (When we moored outside, I actually found a small piece of shale sitting on the gunwale, hmmm, how did that get there … ?)  The sprayed-concrete parts looked almost like a passage through tree roots, like illustrations in a fairy story or some weird part of a computer game.  A couple of times I heard a train rush through the neighbouring tunnel and felt the breeze it generated.

Poor Meg meanwhile was very confused.  Every now and then I walked through to the bow, and she looked very glum in her hidey-hole or standing puzzled at the limit of her lead.  At the third adit we just waved to the other CRT chap who then set off back to the entrance.  But we paused here anyway as it was my turn to steer.  You have to be stationary so that you can safely swap the kit - though I used my own lifejacket I still needed to don the high-viz waistcoat.  It was the first time I had steered in a tunnel.  Challenging but exciting!  I was too busy to be scared and anyway Terry kept me entertained, as well as warning about the bends, sticking-out bits, and oh-so-tactfully suggesting adjustments to the steering.  I don’t think I bashed the boat any more than Dave did … well not that much anyway.  I was glad to hand back at the last checkpoint as I had neck-ache from crouching.  It was unfortunately an extremely wet bit with water cascading down from a ventilation shaft!  As we swapped, Terry got off to call back and confirm our position.

15 terry adit 4

We cheered as the far end became visible, though it took a long time to reach.  We emerged into brilliant sunshine.

17 nearly there

18 waiting their turn

The experience had been fabulously interesting and we were astonished that it had taken two hours to get through – it seemed much less.  It had been cold and rather wet, and the hard hats were definitely not ‘Health and Safety gone mad’ – there are lots of places where you need them!

20 checking in

One boat (nb Donald no 9 I think) was moored waiting for their turn later this morning and of course they wanted to know all about it.  We were happy to oblige while Terry got his equipment together and Meg was freed at last from her prison.

21 terry and meg

After a quick walk for Meg to stretch her legs we moved off to leave room for the boat following to drop their chaperone.  The moorings further round, where another boat was waiting, looked lovely, wide open grass and trees.  There were lots of strollers in the sunshine, and at lock 31W (we are on the west side now) is a cafe, so we rewarded ourselves with an ice-cream and took our time descending.

25 entering lock31WLoads of gongoozlers!  which was lucky, as it’s quite hard to raise a stiff paddle when one hand is holding an ice-cream!  A lovely chap not only was keen to learn how to raise a paddle, he (and little daughter) helped with the gates too.  We made good progress down the locks as I got the bike out and could lock ahead.  We have not seen this style of paddle stand before.  It’s very handy that they are both on the towpath side.

26 different paddle stands

A bit further on, I was returning from setting a lock when I realised something wasn’t right at the lock behind.  Dave was kneeling on the grass with Meg and a group of worried-looking fishermen.  Meg had sneaked along the opposite bank and stolen some bait – unfortunately already on the end of a line – and had been hooked.  The hook was barbed (surely barbed hooks should have been banned by now!), so although we could see it in her lip there was no way we could get it out ourselves without the risk of further injury.  Luckily the line had broken straight away and once people weren't trying to hold her still to look at it she didn’t seem in any discomfort so we just cracked on towards the first town, Uppermill, without stopping for lunch.  At lock 23W is a magnificent viaduct, close to a cafe, so swarming with gongoozlers.

30 lock 23W

We answered loads of questions, as you do, but were keen to carry on and get moored up so we could get the laptop out and track down a vet as soon as we could. Luckily there is a good signal in Uppermill, and a vet too, but we had to travel to their Mossley practice where they had the facilities to deal with Meg.  The taxi firm they suggested (lots won’t carry dogs) couldn’t come for 45 minutes so we walked into town to look for a bus stop.  But a handy pet shop gave us a local taxi number and 15 minutes later we were in Mossley.  The vet practice was splendid – Meg was assessed within five minutes of our arrival and they took her in straight away.  We were packed off for ‘maybe up to 2 hours’.

So, Mossley.  We wandered around a bit, spotting this statue, erected to commemorate the local mill girls (I think the basket contains bobbins). 

31 mossley mill girl

A tree in the car park had been yarn-bombed.

33 mossley yarn bombing

We were looking for somewhere to go for a walk, but without a map we ended up going to the church nearby to wander round the graveyard.  It was full of poignant and in some cases heartbreaking memorials; one was for a mother and baby who had died just a few days apart. 

34 st georges churchyard

Within an hour we had a call to say we could collect Meg in 20 minutes.  She was a bit sleepy, though luckily had only had a sedative, not a full-blown anaesthetic.  They had removed the hook without trouble and there was no further injury, though they had given her two antibiotic injections in case of any infection.  We thought £87 for such prompt and excellent service was good value – Ian McConnell vets, highly recommended.

We were back at the boat by 7, having left it soon after 4.  Rather than the planned pub visit, we had an Indian take-away and a quiet evening in.  Meg said she was quite well enough to help with the poppadums though!

5 miles, 10 locks, 6 hours, one tunnel and an unscheduled taxi ride.

Standedge Tunnel; the highest (643’ above sea level), deepest (636’ below ground at its deepest point) and longest (5,686 yards or nearly three and a quarter miles) canal tunnel in Britain.  But no certificate!  The Tunnel Inn at the Marsden end, which used to issue them, has closed.

Monday 22 June 2015

People love to see boats along the Huddersfield Narrow!

Tuesday 9th June; Slaithwaite to Marsden

We set the alarm so we’d be sure of getting to Marsden in time to go to the Visitor Centre and town before everything shut, as there won’t be a chance tomorrow.  Soon after 8 we were on our way through the village, where the road runs alongside the canal.

1 slaithwaite

Nicholson’s goes into raptures about this, but the water levels were a bit low so we couldn’t see much!  The road was busy last night and again this morning, as it’s rush hour, but the drivers are amazingly on the ball when it comes to pedestrian crossings; if you look even vaguely as though you are going to cross they screech to a halt.  The champion pie shop had already closed last night and wasn’t yet open this morning, which was a shame as we’d fancied pies for lunch.  The locks, though technically not the deepest on the system, certainly look that way when the water level is so low.  I think this one is 23E.

4 very deep when water levels low

I had read on Free Spirit's account of their trip last year that the guillotine gate on 24E was tough.  Blimey!  They weren't wrong!  I thought Irene just meant it was hard to turn the windlass, which it wasn’t really.  Lulled into a false sense of security by the relative ease of opening the paddles, I merrily started to wind the guillotine up. The sun carried on shining …..  I had a rest as a man on his way to work made some jocular comment about the division of labour …. I looked down and could see the paddles had appeared …  I carried on winding …  the bottom of the guillotine crept into view …. eventually the gap was big enough for Chuffed to get underneath. 

5 lock 24E guillotine

After I got my breath back I remembered to count the turns as I lowered the guillotine.  120!  I thought the Rochdale gear was bad enough, where the hydraulically assisted systems take between 30 and 42 turns, but this…. words failed me and not just from lack of breath!  I won’t grumble next time we’re on the Grand Union, that’s for sure – 21 turns is nothing compared to this.

Anyway, it was a glorious day and the water levels didn’t cause too many problems.  The canal just got more and more beautiful.

7 dappled sunlight

The River Colne still ran peaty brown the other side of the towpath.

6 peaty brown river colne

We’ve seen many friendly walkers in the last couple of days, and three have said how lovely it is to see boats using the canal.  With only 3 boats allowed through the tunnel in each direction, and on only 3 days a week, they won’t get many as the moorings are really not good enough for a lot of traffic.  A local boater we chatted to in Slaithwaite said that when the canal was dredged the spoil wasn’t taken out, just shifted to the sides, so it’s hardly surprising that you can’t get to the edge for a wild mooring.  Even the lock landing areas are dodgy.  There are also places where the water vegetation is creeping across – on one longish stretch the channel narrowed between large stands of a plant I think was Water Horsetail, and there was so much build-up of silt that we could hear the hull sliding along the mud all the way. 

In the Booth Bank area we were surprised to see this Torbay Palm thriving in a cottage garden up on the hillside.  In East Devon where we live, the palms on the sea front at Exmouth were all knocked right back in the harsh winter a few of years ago, yet this is thriving in Yorkshire, 200 miles north and over 700 feet above sea level!  8 torbay palm lock 27 or 28Earlier on a walker had told us that a boat was coming down; they came round the bend as we were rising up lock 31E.  This was the best possible place to meet them – there is water from the Sparth reservoir, so no water supply problems, and also a winding hole above the lock so plenty of space to pass.  They had come through the tunnel yesterday, the only boat coming in this direction, so we knew we would be able to choose our mooring at Marsden.

Sparth reservoir

10 sparth reservoir

We had been really worried about the last 10 locks, because Nicholson’s warns that if water levels are low you mustn’t let water down without calling CRT first, but in the event we had no trouble at all.  The hillsides are well wooded and in the sunshine it was beautiful.  At one point I thought I heard a turtle dove calling in the trees, but couldn’t see it.  At lock 37E the Blue Peter logo is emblazoned on the balance beams.  A notice explained that one of the presenters had helped make the gate earlier this year, and then I spotted an article in Towpath Talk about it.  The staff involved (from CRT, the Manchester and Pennine Waterways team) got their Blue Peter badges!

12 blue peter helped rebuild maybe 39

We made it to the moorings near the station at Marsden at one o’clock.  Under five hours for 21 deep locks we felt was good going, though to be fair most were in our favour!  Better than yesterday anyway.  We have seen these fancy bollards in a couple of places.  Think I’d rather see the money spent on dredging though.

16 fancy crt bollards

We had lunch then walked into the town for a look around and some shopping, and then took Meg and walked along to the tunnel mouth and the Visitor Centre.  They ask you not to moor there till after 4pm, as the trip boat needs the space; we met a couple of ladies who had just been on a trip and they were thrilled with the whole experience.  The visitor centre was opened in 2001 by the daughter of the fastest legger through the tunnel.

17 tunnel opening stone

We just had time to go around the fascinating visitor centre before it closed, then checked out the tunnel moorings, walked back and moved the boat.  We had been close to the station – now we were opposite the railway tunnel entrance.  No problem, we don’t mind trains.  (The white dot in the tunnel mouth is not the other end – it’s a notice on the barrier!)

18 tunnel portal from footbridge

The trip boats were moored outside the Visitor Centre behind us as we stood on the footbridge to take this photo – a few hours later we and the other two boats booked for tomorrow were all moored here and getting ready for tomorrow.  We knew we would have to take the cratch cover off to avoid damage, and it needed repair anyway, so I got on with that before we went back to town to eat at the Riverhead Brewery Tap, which had been highly recommended.  Excellent beer, good food and cheerful service upstairs in the restaurant.

21 locks, 3 miles, 5 hours.  One boat passed us going downhill, and two came up behind and will be going through the tunnel tomorrow.

A postscript on pronunciation;  ‘Slaithwaite’ is supposed to be pronounced ‘Slough-it’.  We did our best to get it right, and then we heard an announcement at the station where it was rendered ’Slaythe-waite’ in an extremely refined BBC-type voice.  I suppose visitors from outside Yorkshire wouldn’t know what ‘Slough-it ‘ was.

Sunday 21 June 2015

Narrow locks at last, but the bottom of the canal was too close to the top ….

Monday 8th June; Huddersfield – Slaithwaite

We hadn’t booked our passage through the Standedge Tunnel before today as we weren’t sure how long it would take us to get this far.  We didn’t want to leave Huddersfield until we’d got our slot sorted, and if we couldn’t go through till Friday we would have stayed put for another day.  But Wednesday it is!  After pausing at the service block to empty a cassette and dispose of rubbish, we were off.  Having read other boaters’ accounts of cruising the Huddersfield Narrow, we were a bit concerned about water levels in the canal, so held back on filling the water tank – wisely as it turned out!

Through the narrow bridge we went and past a canalside crane to the first of the locks on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

1 crane start of huddersfield narrow2 lock 1E

The notice warns that there’s no towpath access between the first two locks.  The canal runs between a high wall and the university buildings before disappearing into a tunnel through a very narrow channel.

2a huddersfield uni   3 narrow on way to lock 2

4 tight squeeze

Dave's shoulder is better now and he was relieved to have a change from just steering.  Here he is at lock 2.

5 lock 2

But once we’d reached lock 4 it was clear that I’d have to stay off the boat as the next pound was very low.  Dave crept along the very centre of the channel, scraping the bottom all the way, till he came to a standstill on the approach to the lock.  I carefully ran some water through in stages until he was afloat again; I didn’t want to let a lot through in case it caused problems further up.

6 lock 5E

Just as well.  It was very slow going all the way to lock 11 and I had to let water down several times.  Some locks were leaky which had compounded the problem.  Lock 9E is one of the locks (like Hillmorton on the North Oxford) with lines of poetry carved into the balance beams.

7 lock 9E  8 lock 9E

9 lock 9E

The words on the top gate are obscured by the paddle gear whether the gate is open or closed.  It reads ‘the slow machine that England was’.  Well, Chuffed was a pretty slow machine this morning!  The pictures show the water level in the pound above the lock, and you can see the boat is sitting a couple of feet lower than she should have been.  Dave had to be very patient. 

10 low water

Short pounds like these are often prone to low water levels, but at least it means that it’s not far for the crew to go to let some water down.  But by the time we’d gone up lock 11 the water levels were fine.  When we met the boats that came up later in the day, they hadn’t had a problem with water levels, so our travails must have sorted the issue for everyone else!  Here is Dave ditch-crawling along the last low pound from lock 10.

11 ditch crawling

Now the towpath became busier with dog-walkers and there were more trees.  The higher parts of the town had attractive cottages and old mills and there were occasional glimpses of an impressive railway viaduct.  It began to feel quite rural, though you could often hear – or smell – the factories behind the trees. I’m sure it would be a lot less pretty in winter with the leaves off the trees.  Golcar aqueduct was very awkward, with a 90 degree turn at each end, like the Avoncliff on the Kennet and Avon.  But that’s a broad canal.  For those not familiar with narrowboat steering, you need to appreciate that aqueducts on narrow canals are often no wider than locks, and until the stern has left it completely you can’t change the direction of the bow even if there is a sharp bend ahead with trees growing out over the canal – so we couldn’t avoid getting swept by the branches.  We are only 55’ - a longer boat would have had a lot more trouble. 

As we approached lock 13E we passed the site of the breach which closed this part of the canal a couple of weeks ago.  There was apparently a hole big enough for two men to get in. It has been patched up and will be properly repaired during the winter.

12 breach site golcar

If you can avoid looking at the factories, which is often possible, this part of the canal is beautiful.  The Colne flows along behind the wall on the towpath side.

13 beautiful if you don't look at the factories

As we approached Linthwaite we caught sight of a huge mill across a wide flat meadow.  A passing walker told us that it had been derelict for years but had recently been renovated.  It now houses apartments and has a spa and gym on the ground floor.  It was called ‘Titanic Mill’ as it was built in the year of that ill-fated maiden voyage.

14a titanic mill

It had been clouding up for some time and came on to rain as we approached Slaithwaite, our planned mooring spot.  The visitor moorings are above lock 21E, not below as indicated in Nicholson’s.  We just had time to do a bit of shopping before the shops closed, finally finding a bucket with a lid, which we need for the stern deck. 

We’ve seen a lot of wonderful old buildings this trip; lovely stone cottages and bridges, and the new housing mostly seems to be built of, or at least clad in, local stone.  The old mills, often 6 storeys high, have not been demolished out of hand and look impressive converted to offices or flats.  We just don’t seem to have anything like that down south.  Maybe stone lasts better than brick.

Two boats arrived during the evening, the only ones we have seen on the move today.  They are both booked in for the tunnel on Wednesday, so we will see them again.

21 narrow locks, 5 miles, 7 hours.